Zach Wong Tower card

Tarot: The Tower

The appearance of the Tower card often strikes fear into the heart of both reader and querent. The card is RWS_Tarot_16_Towerdark, menacing and nightmarish, seemingly bringing death and destruction. It’s one of the cards that people would prefer not to encounter, given a choice. And there’s the nub – the Tower is not about choice; it’s about having something happen to you, foisted upon you, or taken away from you. How do you go about interpreting the dastardly tarot tower? How would you find the positive aspects of such a negative image?

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Article – what do you do when Tower and Death appear together?  Tower+Death = ?


Description of the Tower

The Rider-Waite Tower depicts a brick edifice being destroyed by lightning. The lightning looks like a zig-zagging arrow, striking from top right. Fire burns within, flames leaping from the top and from the windows. A pall of smoke hangs over everything.

Two people are falling from the building – it’s not clear whether they are falling to their death or maybe into water, where they have some chance of survival. One figure is a woman in a blue gown and red shoes. Amazingly her headdress or crown is still on her head. The other figure is a man, also dressed in blue with a red cape. His hair is loose – perhaps the oversized crown flying off the top of the building is his.

Twenty-two yods float in the air, looking like small flames. Yod is the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the first syllable of the Hebrew name for God, Yahaweh. At the base of the tower are rugged rocks. It seems that this tower is built quite high up, as there is a cloud (or smoke) behind the rocks.

Symbolism of the Tower Card

There is a lot of symbolism in the Tower, see the table below for a brief overview.

Achievement of material power.
Construction of the ego, a false sense of security.
Symbol of Truth sent by God.
Destructive and cleansing.
Carries away negativity.
10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Indicates divine will.
Female figure
Represents the subconscious.
Male figure
Represents conscious thought.
Having no control over the situation

The Fool’s Journey

The poor old Fool – though we should understand that he is a young spirit, a work-in-progress, moving ever upward on a spiraling journey towards enlightenment, where he finds that, in fact, the journey never ends and he has to start again, each time at a higher level – has been stuck for a while, entangled in his own egotistical desires. He has been under the influence of the Devil and shows no signs of recognizing his own convoluted thoughts have been the problem all along, keeping him in an unhealthy holding pattern. Something needs to happen to break him out. Time passes and still the Fool remains tethered. He is not going to do what needs to be done of his own volition.

Time for a Tower moment! The heavens open, the cataclysm begins, or the breakdown happens. The Fool is suddenly catapulted into awareness. He has lost everything. He stands there, mourning the disappearance of all he has known; all that has gone before. Suddenly he is struck by a revelation – he is still here, he can start again, he has lost nothing – because nothing material is of any value. He is unencumbered. His belief system, carefully crafted throughout his life journey, has been broken into shards. His carefully woven ego, that once appeared to be crafted from brilliant threads of thought, has been torn into useless tatters. He stands there, witnessing the destruction of his self-inflicted prison. Then he turns, looks towards the horizon and sees a brilliant star arising.

Understanding the Tower Card

The influence of the Tower makes itself felt when we get stuck in a rut, or so wedded to our egos that we are unable to understand that the situation has been caused by our own thoughts, feelings and actions. The Tower may be an actual event or it could be internal, such as a breakdown or a sudden life-changing revelation.

The reason that the Tower seems to be such a negative card is because there is almost nothing we can do to prevent the occurrence of whatever it foretells. If there was something we could have done, then we should have already done it well before the card appears in a reading.

While it is difficult to welcome such cataclysmic change, if you can hold the idea that life begins to improve afterwards, then perhaps you will be able to grab onto a strand of hope.

Some examples:

The man who states that a diagnosis of cancer felt like the end of his life, but in fact, turned out to be life-affirming. He undergoes treatment, makes new friends and learns the value of his family. He discovers that material goods, which he strived for all his working life, are nothing in comparison to the new riches he finds in remission, or even during his remaining weeks. Each night he stands beneath the stars, gazing in wonder, knowing in his soul that life is eternal.

A woman is stuck in an abusive marriage. Her husband verbally undermines her and physically attacks her. She can see no way out. She feels dependent. She adopts certain attitudes and behaviors to try and placate him. They never work so the small amount of confidence she once had has evaporated. One night he beats her so badly that neighbors call the police and he is arrested. While she recovers in hospital, she is informed that he is likely to be imprisoned. Her whole world has fallen apart. No marriage, no husband, no home. Suddenly a sense of freedom envelops her. She knows what she can do. She is still young. She can do anything. She can study. Get a job. Make a home for herself. Her whole life begins to reveal itself before her, like a beautiful star-embroidered blanket of possibilities.

A family stands at the roadside, watching their home go up in flames. Everything they built, everything they worked for has gone. They turn to each other, their faces stained with soot. They are safe, they have each other and there are stars glistening in their children’s eyes. They have all they need.

When the Tower Appears in a Reading

If you are doing a reading for a client or a friend and the Tower appears, take a deep breath. Establish whether the card is in a past, future or advisory position. Allow the influence of the other cards to permeate into your consciousness. Are they mostly positive, neutral or negative? Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes into your head. Remember that some people can be affected by a tarot reading for the rest of their life.Zach Wong Tower card

Feel your way around the reading to establish the querent’s situation. It may become obvious to you what the Tower represents. Gently explain it as an imminent change. Emphasize the need to ‘clear the decks’. Talk about this change bringing clarity, understanding, relief and, eventually, progression. Talk generally, rather than specifically. I always ask them if they know the song, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, and tell them to go listen to it – play it for them if you have an internet connection close by. It is the epitome of a post-Tower situation.

This depiction of the Tower from Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong is a perfect illustration of your choices when dealing with a tower situation. The upright image shows the tower de-constructing, but in an almost orderly way. There is control, direction and a pattern can be seen. This is how things work if you hold on strong to the notion that there is always a positive outcome; that hope and faith are your pillars of strength. The reversed image shows what happens when you succumb to negativity, see yourself as a victim of fate and allow depression and despondency to rule your world.
 The Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong

2 thoughts on “Tarot: The Tower

  1. Maxime Wareham

    I got the tower in my domestic area of a Celtic cross reading. My partner died suddenly 6 weeks ago leaving me with 3 young children. He did not have a Will and so we will receive little money. The lovers were also in this domestic area along with the six of swords, ace of pentacles six of cups and 10 of wands. Would the tower relate to his death of does it speak of more turmoil?

    1. Troi Post author

      Hi Maxime,

      So sorry to hear of your loss. It must be very hard for you right now.

      I can’t interpret your reading for you. It’s personal to you. What do you think it means? What do you feeeeel from the cards? I don’t even know what you mean by the ‘domestic’ area of the Celtic Cross. Never heard of it. It’s better to refer to them by number – I can ‘see’ them then. I’d also want to know your specific question, and all the other cards. So you can see why I can’t do it.

      Overall, they seem to be mostly positive cards, speaking of recovery and improvement. The Lovers may indicate a life-changing decision to be made. If you tell what position the Tower appears in, I can give you a more detailed opinion. But remember, that’s just MY opinion. Tarot readings are basically a snapshot in time, and reflect the energies surrounding you in the moment. If I did a reading for you, it would, of course, come out differently.

      Hope life improves for you soon, Maxime.


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